NRDC Saunders Roe Nautical 1 - SRN1

NRDC Saunders Roe Nautical 1 - SRN1

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The SRN1 was the first full-sized proof-of-concept hovercraft, built in 1959 by Sauders Roe (Aviation) under commission from the British National Research and Development Corporation (NRDC). The craft was designed by the inventor of the hovercraft, Sir Christopher Cockerell (Wikipedia page). The craft astounded all on its first flights from its production factory at East Cowes, Isle of Wight, both on land and on the waters of the Solent.

Later that year on the 25th July, 1959, Cockerell, navigator John Chaplin and chief test pilot Capt. Peter Lamb were the full crew of the craft on its most famous flight, that being the first flight of a hovercraft across the English Channel from Calais to Dover. With Cockerell providing inventive dynamic ballast by careful positioning of himself around the structure, the crossing was made in a time of 2 hours 3 minutes, overcoming the obstacles of non-favourable winds and moderate swell on the water. This flight proved the hovercraft's capabilities, though also showed the limitations of the initial design, that being, a skirtless one providing little in the way of obstacle clearance. It wasn't until Cecil Latimer-Needham invented the flexible skirt (and subsequently sold the patent to Westland, the parent company of Saunders Roe) that air cushion technology really 'took off' [Hovercraft Museum, 2007; Hayden, 1969; McLeavy, 1976]. The SRN1 prototype continued to be developed by Westland, Saunders Roe and the NRDC and even received a skirt and an additional engine in the form of a Rolls-Royce Viper jet to increase its thrust output.

The SRN1 is now at home at RAF Wroughton, Swindon, England, an extension of The Science Museum. Photos of her in her current state and more can be found at The Hovercraft Museum.

Performance specifications for the original SRN1 hovercraft

Sources: Barton, 2004; Hovercraft Museum, 2007



Length (m) 9.58
Beam (m) 7.62
Height (hovering) (m) 3.31
Height (landed) (m) 3.08
Cruise speed (kts) 18 - 20
Max speed (with piston engine) (kts) 35
Max speed (with Viper engine) (kts) 50
Max obstacle clearance/hoverheight (m) 0.23
Max obstacle clearance with skirt (m) 1.07
Main Engine Centrally located Alvis Leonide IC Aero piston engine driving main propeller.
Main Engine Power (kW) 324
Engine Cruise Speed (RPM) 2,700
Steering system Two air channels either side of the craft with rudders at their ends. Thrust air from a bleed from lift air.

Hovercraft SRN1 general arrangement drawing

GENERAL ARRANGEMENT DIAGRAM (Sources: Barton, 2004; Croome, 1964)

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